3 underrated Buccaneers who will make a massive impact next season

The future is now for the Buccaneers, which means a few guys could find themselves stepping up in big ways in 2024.

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Deven Thompkins, WR/KR

There's no doubt that Tampa Bay has one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL. With legendary wideout Mike Evans re-signing on a two-year, $52 million deal in free agency, the Buccaneers return Evans and underrated slot receiver Chris Godwin on offense, who have combined for 14 1,000-yard seasons, the most of any active receiver duo.

Coupled with incoming second and third-year receiving options Trey Palmer and Cade Otten, and Tampa Bay has surrounded star QB Baker Mayfield with a good supporting cast on offense. With a crowded receiving room, slot receiver Deven Thompkins may have a larger role, just not as a receiver.

Thompkins, an undrafted free agent from Utah State, played in just five games, but managed to take 12 kickoff returns for 263 yards and 382 all-purpose yards. This season, Thompkins thrived as the Buccaneers' primary return specialist, playing in all 17 games and returning 16 kickoffs for 327 yards and 25 punts for 234 yards. It's worth noting the former ranked 14th in the NFL, a major improvement from his rookie season.

In reference to his improved play, Thompkins will likely slot in as the team's starting return specialist, which is important in it's own right. In 2024, ten players on the kicking team and at least nine players on the receiving team will line up just five yards apart and can't begin running until the ball gets back to the returner. Only kickers and returners can move before the ball is returned.

Kickers will kick the ball from their own 35-yard line with the 10 other members of the kickoff return unit at the opposing 40-yard line. Due to these rule changes, the effectiveness of Thompkins' returns will be even more pertinent in giving Mayfield and Co. good starting field position and even gaining momentum from a big return.